The Friday Zero

You might be wondering what the Friday Zero is. It’s when you get to the end of the week and realize that you’ve been so incredibly busy between work and travel and household duties that you never listened to a single new song. Not one. Not even the new Offa Rex track that you have waiting on your computer. And then you sit down Friday night after that very long week, wondering what the hell to do for your Friday Five.

Yes, I could just pull from the archives and give you five random songs, but if I haven’t been listening to them or thinking about them, it feels — I don’t know. Wrong.

Instead I give you a lame excuse, and an apology. Next week I will endeavor to set aside time for listening, no matter how hectic my days. And hey, if you’ve been listening to anything good this week, leave it in the comments!

The Friday Five – June 16, 2017

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Another great week full of music.  Check out some recent faves below.

Stars – “Privilege” & “We Called It Love”

New Stars.  How fantastic to wake up to new Stars.  There are two tracks, and I’m posting them both, because NEW STARS.

Spotify sucks and won’t embed, so click this link

Gordi – “Heaven I Know”

I’m new to Gordi, but dang, I’m loving the Imogen Heap vibes.  I spent Wednesday listening to hours of her music, and I’m hooked.

Charly Bliss – “Westermarck”

Fun tune, super fun video.

SOAR – “Fort Funston”

I kinda love music that references places (which is one of the reasons why I love Canadian music — Canadian musicians aren’t afraid to write about the places they know).  Specificity never hinders music, in my opinion.  So I’m digging this new tune by SOAR.

The Friday Five – June 9, 2017

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It’s late.  I should be getting some sleep since I’m taking a trip tomorrow to visit a good friend and see a concert, but I couldn’t skip posting five bangers for you guys.  This week has been flush with good tunes — so many that I have to save some for next week’s list.

I’m starting off with the brand new tune by Torres.  I’ve been waiting for this for AGES.  “Sprinter” was one of my favorite albums of 2015, and every time I listen to it, I just fall to pieces.  It’s a stunning record.  And I’ve been whining for months and months on Twitter, wondering when Torres would put out some new material.

And then she dropped her new track, “Skim.”  I bounced around in my cube like a maniac all day.  I posted gifs of a vintage Whitney Houston screaming and dancing.  I was SHOOK.  And the song is everything I had hoped it would be.  The video is not exactly SFW, so if you’re worried about that, head on over to Spotify to stream it.  But listen to it.  You have to.

Torres – “Skim”

Beth Ditto – “We Could Run”

Hot damn!  Another excellent track from Beth Ditto’s fresh solo album.  (Also check out “Fire,” ’cause GIRL.)

Alvvays – “In Undertow”

Oh man.  I love Alvvays.  I picked up their self-titled album while on a trip to Canada last year, and it still gets a lot of play during my workday.  Looking forward to their new album.

Waxahatchee – “Never Been Wrong”

The Crutchfields have superpowers.  I’m convinced of it.  Everything they do is amazing.  Check out the second offering from Katie’s upcoming album, “Out In The Storm.”

Iron & Wine – “Call It Dreaming”

Call me the whitest hipster ever, but I can’t help it.  Sam Beam’s voice just does something to me.  I actually got teary toward the end of this video, y’all.  But then again, I think that a lot of Iron & Wine songs make me cry.  I’m a sensitive hipster.

The Friday Five is back!

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Yes, the rumors are true.  After many months, the Friday Five is making its triumphant return!  Okay, well, triumphant might be a tad dramatic for a feature that probably has a total readership of two (my wife and my mother).  But it’s long overdue, especially because of the constant flood of incredible music that this otherwise-horrid year has been producing.  I’ve had to cut back significantly on my vinyl purchases (that whole building a new house thing, plus the ever-increasing cost of new vinyl), but I keep a list of everything I want so that I can slowly peck away at it when I get gift cards or have a few extra bucks.  And that list is HUGE.

This week’s selections are all new releases from some excellent bands.  Click on the name of the band if you like what you hear, and consider supporting them with a purchase.

Adult Mom – “Drive Me Home”

The newest record from Adult Mom, “Soft Spots,” has been in heavy rotation for the past few weeks.  It’s an incredibly strong, solid offering, and I love the way the sound expands and contracts and expands again as the album progresses.  This song takes the cake, though.

Big Thief – “Mary”

I hadn’t heard Big Thief before the release of their recent hit, “Mythological Beauty.”  I consider that one of my favorite songs of the year, and hoped that each subsequent track premiered would also drag me in and slay me with equal brutality.  I can’t say “Mary” destroyed me quite as completely as “Mythological Beauty,” but I’m weakened and crawling.

Tall Friend – “Oats”

Tall Friend is another new band to me, but I was immediately drawn to the sound.  It reminded me of Told Slant, and O, and Florist.  And then I found out that Emily Sprague (of Florist) was actually involved in the performance and production of Tall Friend’s upcoming album, so it suddenly made sense.  This song alone has me itching to click that pre-order button.

Offa Rex – “Blackleg Miner”

I’m down for anything The Decemberists do.  When they first announced their collaboration with Olivia Chaney, Offa Rex, I knew that I’d love it.  The band is really at its best when paying homage to the sea shanty or Appalachian music, and Offa Rex continues in that tradition, covering old British folk standards.  Seriously, if you didn’t know any better, you would think “Blackleg Miner” was a bonus track from “Castaways and Cutouts.”

Broken Social Scene – “Skyline”

Who else is incredibly excited about the return of Broken Social Scene??  I don’t even need to introduce this song.  Just listen.

Christine and the Friday Five

I’m such a Johnny-come-lately. Story of my life, really. I’m forever falling in love with bands who are no longer together or putting out music, or artists who have been active for a while and now have a large enough fanbase to make those smaller, more intimate concerts out of the question.

Many years ago, I listened to the album “Cloak and Cipher” by Land of Talk and was instantly transfixed, but then discovered that they’d stopped making music and were on some sort of unconfirmed indefinite hiatus. I was devastated. Thankfully they started making music again, and I was able to see them in Brooklyn this past spring, so all is well in the Land of Talk realm.

But I wasn’t so lucky with Wild Flag. Oh, Wild Flag. My biggest music regret is that I didn’t discover you until it was too late. By the time that single record release hooked its way into my heart, the dust had already settled on the band, and from what I hear, there is no possibility of a reunion. Not by a long shot. I console myself by purchasing every Wild Flag item I can get my grubby little hands on, whether it’s vinyl or buttons or posters or whatever. I have a ton of Wild Flag gig posters, though I never had the privilege of seeing them perform live. [Insert heavy sigh here.]

Over the past year, I’ve tried to immerse myself in all things music so that I don’t miss out again. I cruise around Bandcamp listening to anything and everything, trying on bands and artists like an armload of discounted clothes at Kohl’s. I’ve found some truly amazing artists this way. And I’m following all the necessary music news sources like Pitchfork, CoS, and a million others. I’ll admit that I don’t always check everything out that they recommend, but I do my best to give featured tracks and artists a listen. Of course, by the time they get to Pitchfork, chances are they’ve been around for a bit, or people have been following their careers for some time, even if they aren’t a household name. And it drives me kinda nuts when I’ve already missed out on all the cool limited edition vinyl releases, or tiny shows at basement clubs in New York. Those handmade Eskimeaux cassettes? Augh, I’m so bummed that I have to wait until one shows up on my preferred vinyl marketplace and then fight with other rabid fans to be the first to pay the outrageous mark-up fee. And that applies to so many artists for me.

And now that’s me with Christine and the Queens. Not that I can’t purchase a lot of the vinyl and such fairly easily, but I’m just here, scratching my head, wondering how I hadn’t heard of Heloise Letissier before a clip surfaced in my Twitter feed of her performance on Jimmy Fallon. I was captivated. Who was this dimpled, pint-sized firecracker of androgyny with mega Michael Jackson moves and a killer voice? She wasn’t simply a singer with backup dancers. There was something so different and refreshing and compelling about her routine. So of course I pulled up a Rolling Stone article on Heloise and her stage persona of Christine and the Queens, and I read about her struggles, her search for identity that challenged preconceived notions of gender and sexuality, the story behind her stage name and the events that led up to it. I loved the way she looked at the world, and what she was trying to achieve with this music, this persona. She’s awkward, she’s different, she’s outspoken, she’s tilted. And it’s not like she’s the first artist to come along and bring that energy, but somehow this resonates with me far more than other efforts. She’s David Bowie and Michael Jackson and Price rolled into one. She’s Hedwig. And Hedwig, for me, was transcendental. Transformative. When I first heard John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s brilliant story and music for “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” I felt like everything just clicked. To paraphrase a quote from a favorite movie (“Little Children”), it was as if I had been listening to a radio, and someone turned the dial just a hair and everything suddenly came through crystal clear. The static of life as a bit of an outsider, as someone tilted, faded a little, even if just for the time when the music was in my ears. That’s what music should do, right? It should transport you. It should elevate you. It should draw emotions and ideas out of you that you didn’t know existed.

The static was gone last Friday as I watched YouTube video after YouTube video. I was so impressed by the entire package of Christine and the Queens — the singing, the dancing, the OUTFITS, the expression and individuality. And once again, I felt something click. I felt uplifted. And I haven’t stopped listening all week, despite my crushing disappointment that I was such a Johnny-come-lately to Christine, I discovered her two days after she performed in Boston (the one shot I would have had at seeing her live). Curses. And I’m also still perplexed that I hadn’t heard of her before last week when she’s been so popular in France for years. And I like music out of France.

But it’s okay. I’ve got her in my wheelhouse now, and that’s what matters. Until I can procure all the Christine and the Queens vinyl, I’ll make do with the YouTube videos. Which leads me to the Friday Five portion of this post…

It’s all Christine and the Queens. Listen to it. Love it.

1.  “Tilted”

This song has gone through a few iterations. First it was “Cripple,” I think. And then “Christine” for the French release. And then it was rewritten again as “Tilted” for us non-French-speaking folk. I dare you not to dance.

2.  “Saint Claude”

She’s Michael Jackson. Seriously. I love the way they twist and stretch her body in this video, too. But those moves, man.

3.  “Jonathan” feat. Perfume Genius

This song. This video. After watching it twice, I proclaimed that I wanted it to be played at my funeral, and I was only half joking. I mean, come on. What a perfect marriage.

4.  “Half Ladies” (live in Boston)

So, the sound quality is pretty shaky, but the energy in this performance is unreal. Those moves!! I want to learn that dance. I want to dance it in my living room every morning so my day will be awesome.

5.  “Do Not Despair”

This video creeps me the fuck out, but it’s also mesmerizing.

The Friday Five – October 14, 2016

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It seems like a lot of great albums are coming out on October 28th.  I know I have some records coming in the mail that are being released that day, and there are others too.  I’ve been tripping over fantastic, new-to-me music all week, and each time I research the artist, bam — new album coming out on October 28th.  Maybe the music planets are aligning that day or something.

I had an extensive list of songs I’ve been accumulating since last Friday, but I’ve narrowed it down to the five that have stuck with me the most.  Some are new, some are new-to-me, but all are introspective, haunting, beautiful songs.

1.  Emily Reo – “Spell”

This track is gorgeous.  It’s Imogen Heap’s “Hide & Seek” v2, though to simply relegate it to a comparison is really doing it an injustice.  It stands firmly on its own.

2.  Julianna Barwick – “Crystal Lake”

I can’t even remember where I stumbled across this song, but it captured my attention immediately, and then I proceeded to listen to all the Julianna Barwick tracks I could find.

3.  Salvia Palth – “I Was All Over Her”

Lo-fi, shoegaze, bedroom pop at its finest.  I always seem to come across these little musical projects long after they’ve disbanded.  It’s my curse.

4.  Foxes in Fiction – “Ontario Gothic”

I’m just a super fan of everything Orchid Tapes is putting out.  Seriously good.  Why don’t I own anything by this band??

5.  Gord Downie – “The Stranger”

This is the new song and video for the reconciliation project Gord Downie’s been working on.  It’s part of an album/graphic novel/film release based on the tragic story of Chanie Wenjack, who died after escaping a residential school and attempting to make the trek home to his family.  Gord’s doing some amazing work during his last years on this earth, and this project is not only haunting and stunning, but so very necessary for Canada.

The Friday Five – October 7, 2016

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I missed the Friday Five last week. I had planned to pre-write the post and then publish it from the road since I knew I’d be traveling, but I didn’t remember until it was too late. Last Friday I was in Canada at the Kingston Writers Festival, attending a talk/performance by Anna and Jane McGarrigle, moderated by Sarah Harmer. What a great event.

But I’m back this week with some tunes to share. Some of these are recent releases, and some are a little older, but most of them are from new-to-me artists. Check ’em out and let me know what’s been on your playlist this week.

1.  Flock of Dimes – “Semaphore”

2.  Yohuna – “Golden Foil”

3.  From Indian Lakes – “Blank Tapes”

4.  Hazel English – “It’s Not Real”

5.  Forty Seven Teeth – “All the Feels”

The Friday Five – September 16, 2016

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I’ll be honest — most of my week has been devoted to July Talk, whose excellent second album arrived at my house last weekend, and Mitski, because, well, it’s Mitski and “Puberty 2” is a phenomenal album.  But I’ve also given a listen to the new Wilco album, and I’ve been listening to one-off songs as they come up in playlists or my memory.  And those are mostly what I’m featuring today.  It’s a mostly quiet collection of songs, good for the fast-approaching fall and those cold, cold nights.

1.  Wilco – “Cry All Day”

I really like this new Wilco album.  It’s quiet, low-fi, cohesive.  I prefer it to last year’s “Star Wars” release.  This is probably my favorite track off “Schmilco” after one listen.

2.  Venus and the Moon – “Marry Me”

I love these guys.  I’ve been a fan of Frally Hynes since her first solo release, and this project with Rain Phoenix is just as exquisite.

3.  Laura Gibson – “Empire Builder”

I’m new to Laura, but I like her sound, and I love this quiet beauty of a song.

4.  Rose Cousins – “What I See”

Whenever I’m in the mood for some Rose, I always go to this live recording of “What I See” first.  I actually prefer it to the studio version, though both are lovely.  Damn fine Canadian music.

5.  Kathleen Edwards – “Soft Place to Land”

My favorite song off her 2012 release, “Voyageur.”  And I love this live version with the ever-lovely Hannah Georgas on backing vocals.  Kathleen’s busy these days running a coffee shop in Stittsville, Ontario, but I do hope she’ll eventually return to the music, especially when I listen to songs like this one.  Oh, Kitty, I miss you.

The Friday Five – September 9, 2016

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I’ve been slacking.  No Friday Five for two weeks now.  But I was sick with a bad cold and just didn’t feel up for making any selections.  I’m all mended now, though, so I’ve pulled a bunch of tunes from my work playlists to share with you all.  It’s really a mixed bag of music, but there should be something in this group for everyone.  As usual, if you hear something you like, buy it!  I don’t get anything from it other than the satisfaction of having influenced a listener out there, but in this day and age when so much music is simply streamed for free or illegally downloaded, I feel I need to nudge everyone towards supporting the artists with a purchase.

1.  Alvvays – “Adult Diversion”

2.  The Both – “Milwaukee”

3.  Jennifer Castle – “Nature”

4.  PJ Harvey – “Good Fortune”

5.  Wild Flag – “Romance”